Women in Muslim Society



In the western society today there is a stereotypical belief that
Islamic women are treated unequally and cruelly. The object of this
report is to challenge this stereotype and the argument of gender
equality within the Islamic Religion/Muslim society.


The status of women in the Muslim society is neither a new issue nor a
fully settled one. The position of Islam on this issue has been among
the subjects presented to the Western reader with the least
objectivity. This report is intended to provide a brief and authentic
display of what Islam stands for in regard to women within their
beliefs. The teachings of Islam are based essentially on the Qur'an
(God's revelation) and Hadeeth (elaboration by Prophet Muhammad). The
Qur'an and the Hadeeth provide the basic source of authentication for
any position or view which is attributed to Islam. This report focuses
on the position of Islam regarding the status of woman in society


The information of this report was obtained through:

? Mullah, Hassan Ismahael- One of the priests (Mullah^s) of the
Gold Coast Islamic community. Mullah Ismahael was approached with the
question over equal rights within his religion and its typecasts. In
response he stated that ^he opposed these stereotypes for it is against
the true meaning of Islam, Muslims do not believe in such inequality^
and with this he was a main source of information quoting from the
Qur'an and Hadeeth plus giving his viewpoint in many aspects of this

? Qur'an (God's revelation) and Hadeeth (elaboration by Prophet

? Library resources

? The Internet


4.1 The Spiritual Aspect The Qur'an provides clear-cut evidence that
woman is completely equated with man in the sight of God in terms of
her rights and responsibilities. The Qur'an states: "Every soul will
be (held) in pledge for its deeds" (Qur'an 74:38). It also states:
...So their Lord accepted their prayers, (saying): I will not suffer to be lost the work of any of you whether male or female. You proceed one from another ...(Qur'an 3: 195).
Woman according to the Qur'an is not blamed for Adam's first mistake.
Both were jointly wrong in their disobedience to God, both repented,
and both were forgiven. (Qur'an 2:36, 7:20 - 24). In one verse in fact
(20:121), Adam specifically, was blamed. In terms of religious
obligations, such as the Daily Prayers, Fasting, Poor-due, and
Pilgrimage, woman is no different from man. In some cases indeed, woman
has certain advantages over man. For example, the woman is exempted
from the daily prayers and from fasting during her menstrual periods
and forty days after childbirth. If the missed fasting is required,
during the month of Ramadan, (Ramadan is a month of strict fasting and
prayers, one of the Islamic sacraments) she can make up for the missed
days whenever she can. She does not have to make up for the prayers
missed for any of the above reasons. Although women can and did go
into the mosque during the days of the prophet and thereafter
attendance at the Friday congregational prayers is optional for them
while it is compulsory for men (on Friday).

4.2 The Social Aspect

4.2.1 As a child and an adolescent

Despite the social acceptance of female death among some Arabian
tribes, the Qur'an forbade this custom, and considered it a crime like
any other murder. "And when the female (infant) buried alive - is
questioned, for what crime she was killed." (Qur'an 81:8-9).
Criticizing the attitudes of such parents who reject their female
children, the Qur'an states: When news is brought to one of them, of
(the Birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with
inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because
of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance) and
contempt, or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they
decide on? (Qur'an 16: 58-59). Far from saving the girl's life so that
she may later suffer injustice and inequality, Islam requires kind and
just treatment for her.


4.2.2 As a wife:

The Qur'an clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two
halves of the society, and that its objectives, besides creating human
life, are emotional well being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are
love and mercy.

According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone
without their consent. Ibn Abbas (prophet) reported that a girl came
to the Messenger of God, Muhammad (P.), and she reported that her
father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of
God gave her the choice . . . (between accepting the marriage or
invalidating it).

The rules for married life in Islam are clear. Both have equal rights
and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of
leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life
and which is consistent with the nature of man. The Qur'an thus
states: "And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over
them, and men are a degree above them." (Qur'an 2:228). Such degree is
Quiwama (maintenance and protection). This refers to that natural
difference between the sexes, which entitles the weaker sex to
protection. It implies no superiority or advantage before the law. Yet,
man's role of leadership in relation to his family does not mean he is
boss over his wife. Islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel
and mutual agreement in family decisions. The Qur'an gives us an
example: "...If they (husband wife) desire to wean the child by mutual
consent and (after) consultation, there is no blame on them..." (Qur'an
2: 233). 4.2.3 As a mother

Islam considered kindness to parents next to the worship of God. "And
we have enjoined upon man (to be good) to his parents: His mother bears
him in weakness upon weakness..." (Qur'an 31:14) Also, the Qur'an has a
special recommendation for the good treatment of mothers: "Your Lord
has decreed that you worship none save Him, and that you be kind to
your parents . . ." (Qur'an 17:23).

4.3 The Economic Aspect

Islam ordered a right of which woman was ruined both before Islam and
after it (even as late as this century), the right of independent
ownership. According to Islamic Law, woman's right to her money, real
estate, or other properties is fully acknowledged. This right undergoes
no change whether she is single or married. She retains her full rights
to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is
nowhere suggested in the Law that a woman is a lesser simply because
she is a female. It should also be taken into consideration that such
right applies to her properties before and after marriage. 5

With regard to the woman's right to seek employment it should be stated
first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as
the most sacred and essential one. Such a noble and vital role, which
largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as "doing
nothing". However, there is no decree in Islam that forbids woman from
seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in
positions which fit her nature and in which society needs her most.
Examples of these professions

are nursing, teaching (especially for children), and medicine. Also,
there is no restriction on benefiting from woman's talent in any
field. Man in Islam is fully responsible for the maintenance of his
wife, his children, and in some cases of his needy relatives,
especially the females. This responsibility is neither waived nor
reduced because of his wife's wealth or because of her access to any
personal income gained from work, rent, profit, or any other legal
means. Women on the other hand are far more secure financially and are
far less burdened with any claims on her possessions. Her possessions
before marriage do not transfer to her husband and she even keeps her
maiden name and she has no obligation to spend on her family. If she is
divorced, she may get an alimony from her ex-husband.

An examination of the inheritance law within the Islamic Law reveals
not only justice but also an abundance of compassion for woman.

4. 4 The Political Aspect

Any fair investigation of the teachings of Islam into the history of
the Islamic civilization will surely find a clear evidence of woman's
equality with man in ^political rights^. This includes the right of
election as well as woman's right to participate in public affairs.
Both in the Qur'an and in Islamic history we find examples of women who
participated in serious discussions and argued even with the Prophet
himself. During the era of Omar, a woman argued with him in the
mosque, proved her point, and caused him to declare in the presence of
people: ^A woman is right and Omar is wrong.^

Mentioned in the Qur'an, it states that woman are ineligible for the
position of head of state. It is roughly translated: ^A people will not
prosper if they let a woman be their leader.^ Muslims believe that
this limitation, however, has nothing to do with the dignity of woman
or with her rights. It is rather, related to the natural differences in
the biological and psychological make-up of men and women. According
to Islam, the head of the state is no mere figurehead. He leads people
in the prayers, especially on Fridays and festivities; he is
continuously engaged in the process of decision-making and the well
being of his people. In agreement with the Muslims it is a medical
fact that during their monthly periods and during their pregnancies,
women undergo various physiological and psychological changes. Muslims
believe that such changes may occur during an emergency situation, thus
affecting her decision, without considering the excessive strain, which
is produced.


Even in modern times, and in the most developed countries, it is rare
to find a woman in the position of a head of state acting as more than
a figurehead, a woman commander of the armed services, or even a equal
number of women representatives in parliaments.


The first part of this report, the status of women in Islamic spiritual
beliefs was briefly discussed. Emphasis in this part is placed on the
original and authentic sources of Islam. This represents the standard
according to which degree of Muslims can be judged. In summary
throughout this report a few main points were apparent: 1. The history
of Muslims is rich with women of great achievements area^s in life-from
as early as the seventh century (BC) 2. It is impossible for anyone to
justify any mistreatment of woman by any ruling embodied in the Islamic
Law, nor could anyone dare to cancel, reduce, or distort the clear-cut
legal rights of women given in Islamic Law. 3. Throughout history, the
reputation, purity and maternal role of Muslim women were objects of
admiration by observers.

? Mullah, Hassan Ishmael ? The Holy, Qur'an: Translation
of verses is heavily based on A. Yusuf Ali's translation, ?
Encyclopedia Americana (International Edition), N.Y., 1969, Vol.29.
? The Encyclopedia Britannica. ? Hadeeth ?
http://www.win.net/mwl/ ?
http://www.uh.edu/campus/msa/womint.html ?
http://www.unn.ac.uk/societies/islamic/about/women/ ?


As mentioned earlier the objective of this report is to challenge the
stereotype of gender inequality within the Islamic religion/Muslim
society. To define this you must go to the base and origin of its
religion. The derivation of the Islamic religion is the Qur^an- its
bible. The Qur^an sets the Islamic guidelines and regulations,
basically it^s the Islamic ^rule book^. Throughout the Qur^an it never
quotes any disparity yet instructs equality, therefor inequality
shouldn^t exist within the Muslim community.

So why do people believe this? When questioning Mullah Ishmael of this
he quoted:

^During the downfall of Islamic Civilization, such the teachings of the
Qur^an were not clear to many people who claim to be Muslims, which
could be causing difference today. Such interpretations were unfairly
exaggerated by some writers, and the worst of this, were taken to
represent the teachings of Islam to the Western reader without taking
the trouble to make any study of the authentic sources of these

>From that statement it is apparent that the stereotype of the
mistreatment and inequality within the Islamic religion is misconceived
and it is recommended that there should be no misinterpretations of
the role of women in the Islamic Religion/Muslim society today and
throughout history. The delusion that does lie was created by those of
who are lacking knowledge towards the Qur^an and the real teachings of

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